Today's guest post is written by Darcy Hill of One Arts Infusion Collaborative. Many thanks to Darcy for submitting this article!
They were from the far east side of town, and we were from the far west. Our lives, our experiences, and our schedules were worlds apart despite the few miles that separated us. It’s not that we couldn’t have been friends; it’s just that our paths would never have crossed. That is, until “The Project,” that cast us all on the same team, transitioned from dream to enactment.
Two very different fifth grade worlds were about to collide and in that collision, be called upon to create and then perform a rap depicting the story of our city, our shared story. It was to be a part of a much larger original musical work entitled, “Hometown History,” and was dreamed and written to be shared by children to an audience of all neighbors from all neighborhoods of our hometown. It was to serve as a big affirming hug to a city besieged by violence, unemployment, and fear. It was to be just one step toward building a bridge of hope and trust between neighbors.
The first meeting of the fifth graders occurred at the west side school and although the air was filled with a certain amount of tentativeness, a pinch of suspicion, and a good dollop of curiosity, the lengthy laundry list of tasks to be accomplished while together served to quickly focus us all beyond our piddily concerns and doubts. We attended to the business of getting the job done and that demanded immediate cooperative effort; all hands on deck, so to speak. We worked exceedingly hard, we learned, shared, collaborated, laughed, perfected, discussed, fell short, tried again, cheered each other on, applauded ourselves, supported, encouraged, questioned, explained, tried harder, kept practicing, saw progress, high-fived, and, after a couple of hours, enjoyed a pizza lunch together with these precious new friends. The next few weeks were committed to practicing on our own at our respective schools.
The second meeting occurred at the east side school, and the air was filled with excitement, anticipation and warmth as we reconvened our awesome fifth grade team. The local news media showed up to capture the joy of this creative team of fifth grade bridge builders as they zealously rehearsed their proud rap, and sang, danced, played, and laughed as all children should and do from every side of town in every town around the globe.
Music brought us together. Music brought balm to a hometown afflicted with fear and distrust. Music brought laughter, peace, joy and friendship. Music built a bridge of hope and possibility. Music always does. Music levels the playing field and invites each one to play. Music is a universal language that transcends circumstances and disengages exclusivity. Music links us, binds us, welcomes us, and calls us into a shared joy.
Why music? Because it heals our hearts and makes us better.
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About Darcy Hill: I am a teacher. Over the past 30 years, I have been committed to reaching the hearts of the diverse students I teach by writing curricula immersed in original song, drama, and creative movement to bring subject matter to life, to kindle imaginations, and to instill a love for learning. I believe that arts integration holds a key to increased student engagement in the learning process. I believe that the arts are a powerful tool to build collaborative bridges of hope and joy between neighbors and organizations within communities, and I am deeply committed to local efforts of this sort. I have written numerous musicals for my students over the years. One of the most recent original pieces was “Forever Honest Abe”(about Abraham Lincoln) which we performed May 2014 in Springfield, IL including a recitation of the Gettysburg Address delivered on the floor of the Illinois State Senate. The previous year we performed the original “On Being Wright” (about Frank Lloyd Wright) at Wright-designed Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin. We performed in our hometown of Rockford, IL as well to heighten awareness of the genius of Wright in preparation for the local opening of the Laurent House, Wright’s only handicap accessible house. Just prior to that, we performed “Hometown History,” a musical I wrote about our city. We engaged the support and involvement of more than 25 local organizations as a part of this effort and earned a “Mayor’s Arts Award” for collaborative project of the year. We are presently up to our ears in this summer’s project is a children’s operetta entitled, “Araminta: The Life of Harriet Tubman,” which we will teach to 100 under-served and special needs students and then perform locally as well as in Wisconsin at an Underground Railroad Museum.
Music teaches. Music heals. Music helps build bridges between neighbors. Time and time again over more than 30 years I have witnessed the power and preciousness of music to reach into situations and bring hope.
I was born and raised in Wisconsin, am a UW-Madison grad, and a 30 year teacher in Illinois. I have been married 27 years to a very patient man, have 3 remarkable sons, 2 rambunctious Labs, a most inspiring extended family, and a lifelong zeal for playing the piano and writing music.
Although exceedingly late in my career, I just completed a Master's Degree in 2013 in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University Portland, thereby achieving a bucket list dream.